Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Nostalgia for Heterosexual intercourse. Does the evolution of the race include monogamists?

Ape and Essence
Dr Futurity

I have begun reacquainting myself with all the science fiction that I used to read as a child, especially works that are included in the genre of dystopian literature. The first two books I've completed are Dr. Futurity by Philip K Dick and Ape and Essence by Aldous Huxley.

PKD's relevance to the Sci Fi genre is well documented. Whereas, his validity as a writer of science fiction is unchallenged, perhaps he, like so many science fiction writers, hasn't yet secured a spot in the pantheon within the Western Canon. Dr. Futurity is a prime example of a compelling, entertaining work of science fiction that most English majors wouldn't dare to leave on their bookshelf.

Mr. Huxley's position in the western canon is more secure, even if science fiction is not as welcome as other genres. Huxley's Brave New World along with Orwell's 1984 were quintessential reads in most grade and middle school. Even among those who haven't read the works, most are familiar with the stories or at the very least recognize the notion of "Big Brother" or being a "Alpha" versus a "Beta". Fewer readers are familiar with Ape and Essence, an extremely interesting and entertaining piece of speculative fiction that I encourage anyone to pick up post haste, especially those of us who fancy ourselves scriptwriters or screenwriters.

Like many dystopian novels, both of these novels involve society and technology impinging upon on the individual. Something that took me off guard though was that both books focus on the procreation of the species and how that need affects negatively those who are interested in plain old vanilla heterosexual sex.

In Dr Futurity, there is a embryo farm that is set up that releases an embryo for development upon the death of an individual within the society, thereby keeping the population balanced. Any other form of impregnation is illegal and supposedly impossible due the fact that all male children are sterilized in their infancy. Sex is still engaged in as a recreational activity, but if fertilization is a possibility than sex is illegal. Only an underground tribe still carries on physical fertilization, and need desperately to save the life of one the only fertile males in their group.

In Ape and Essence, we see a post apocalyptic future where the society is one of devil-worship and that sex as recreation or procreation is only allowed during a certain time of the year in orgy rituals where males and females partner as many times as possible with as many partners as possible in order to procreate and glorify Belial. Sex at any other time is punishable, and monogamists are viewed as perverts called "Hauts" that are often put to death or exile. All the female inhabitants wear robed with the letters "NO" stitched over their erogenous zones.

Both stories involve notions of purity and that having much to do with why the societies impose upon their population's sexuality as they do.

In Dr. Futurity, usually once someone is injured, they will elect euthanasia so as to allow a new embryo to be released, believing that since they are injured, ill, or damaged that the new embryonic life will be less of drain on their society than they will (I guess that solves the need for universal healthcare...wink...damaged patriot...take yourself out of the equation).

In Ape and Essence, the post apocalyptic radiation has so mutated the gene pool, that the society uses the demonic ritualized reproduction to keep surveillance on and thereby euthanize babies that are too deformed. The infants are killed on the eve of the next year;s ritual and their mothers are ostracized from further reproduction. Ritualized seasonal sex makes it much easier for those in authority to control and monitor the pregnancies.

I found it sort of fascinating that the crisis in both these stories had to do with the illegality of the heterosexual reproductive act. In my own, possibly misguided way, I always thought of dystopian literature as predominantly...liberal. But here are two works by two major championed authors of the previous century that could be arguably be calls for the conservative. Anybody out there familiar with this works, or have ideas or thoughts to share...?


downtown guy said...

Well, you're not supposed to support the controlling interest in dystopian fiction, generally speaking. State control over reproduction is one of the major points used by authors to prick up our fears and bring home their message.

If you're going to control a population completely, you have to start before birth. That's a common trait to both dystopias and utopias. But with dystopian writing, we're allowed to dwell on what a horror that would be in real life.

Devilvet said...

I get that. I get that the way to control is get them while their young (real young)...but at the same time both stories deal with monogomous heterosexual intercourse as something that is sacred and pure and that has been destroyed or nearly obliterated...very interesting when I think about republican fear of the sancity of a marriage between a man and a woman. There is something almost prudish in the way both authors' protagnoists approach the world (although one could argue that Huxley is well aware of that by making our hero a 35 year old virgin who dotes on his Mother). Dick's protoganist contemplates the possibly that he is in no place to judge the society he is thrust into, that all goes out the window when he has to save European Caucasian Antiquity using time travel... BTW, downtown guy have you read either of the books? Ape and Essense gets big thumbs up from me.

downtown guy said...

I get what you're saying now. I think that has as much to do with the time period in which both books were written. I mean, we're talking the 50s here - monogamous heterosexual match ups really were seen as the end all be all, the most important building block of our rugged, American lifestyle, if you get me.

Devilvet said...

We reached a time when much of our speculative fiction is backward thinking...

I wonder if Dick or Huxley were writing such pieces today what would the protagonists views be?

i.e. how does sexuality get criticized by dystopian writers penning their work now (i.e. since Clinton was in office)?

downtown guy said...

I don't know, but as I read more, it's something I'll be thinking/writing about for sure. Not just Clinton, but the rise of gay and lesbian rights, the further medical and social advances for transsexual and transgendered folks, sexualization of youth vs. the need to protect children from those who can come right into their bedroom online - it's all feeding into the dystopian views being written today.

I meant to add - I haven't read either of those, but Ape and Essence is on the Big List. Should I add Dr. Futurity, too?

Devilvet said...

Dr. Futurity was fun, but gets a bit of a shoulder shrug. Don't avoid it, but if there are other PKDs on your list maybe try them first.

downtown guy said...

Good to know. I don't need the Big List getting any bigger.